Monday, October 19, 2009

MLS in Portland: A Comparison

As the Trail Blazers get ready for their new season, and as Bill Walton came-a-visitin' recently searching for forgiveness, I got to wondering how different was the NBA expansion to Portland in 1970 than the current MLS expansion to Portland.

As I am lazy and cheap and most archival new stories on-line are not free (can it be true, hasn't Google figured this out yet?), I am left to offer only some little tidbits of information.

Such as:

Average attendance of the NBA in the three years leading up to the Portland expansion year (1970): 5,967, 6,484 and 7,563.

So was the NBA such a (wait for it...) 'slam dunk' for the city? Perhaps not. The city owned Memorial Coliseum was already in existence and lacked a major tenant so it has parallels there. But the NBA was still pretty much a fledgling league (with the ABA as a competitor) and future prospects were uncertain. Since then the NBA, thanks in part to Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and the proliferation of color TV, has soared in popularity and became an international brand.

I suspect, however, that in the late 60's there were many who questioned if the NBA would go anywhere. What is interesting to me in retrospect is how much the Blazers are a part of the fabric and identity of the city.

So why so much skepticism about MLS? It is as established a league as the NBA was then. Unlike the NBA at that time it is already part of a global market, and one that is staggeringly enormous. And the league's franchise values have skyrocketed in recent years.

One big difference is that the city does now have an established major league franchise. Though it is also worth noting that their schedules complement each other's nicely - unlike the NHL which so many were so excited about a few years back.

But I am but a youngster, barely out of diapers. Anyone remember the talk surrounding the NBA coming to Portland in the late 60s?

On another MLS note, this is another troubling sign that, in the grass seed capital of the world, the Timbers may end up playing on plastic...

Nemo's original idea was to set the slogan against a carpet of lush grass, Nemo account manager Jessie Grav said. But team owner Merritt Paulson suggested the image be replaced because nobody knows yet whether the 2011 Timbers will be playing on grass or artificial turf, she said.

This is about the photo above. I suspect he would not be that worried if he didn't already suspect that plastic was almost certain.


Unknown said...

Nobody ever seems to want to admit it, but MLS seems to be, from what I can tell, a far more financially and commercially successful league than the NBA was in 1970. In fact, it sure seems to be in a better place than the NBA was even when the ABA and NBA merged.

Unknown said...

With all the former NFL execs and owners running MLS, you can rest assured that the league is going to be run with long-term sustainability in mind. MLS is here to stay!

Unknown said...

I did a little research regarding attendance figures for the NBA. Seems the as far as attendance goes, the NBA didn't reach the numbers MLS has had over the last 3 seasons until 1992. In 1976-77 NBA drew an average of 10,974.

In 2009 with 1 week left in the season, MLS has averaged 15,894.

Like the NBA in 1976-77. MLS has a long term National TV deal, though it is on cable (ESPN2) with an occasional ESPN game. Granted it's not exactly apples to apples as there was no cable TV or ESPN to serve the same purpose.